This funny, thick-set, stout-billed little bird, though not so big as the ordinary quail, is really a pigmy relative of the ordinary grey partridge, which it much resembles in many of its ways, even to the detail of getting into a temper when blown upon in a cage. Like larger partridges, it has an easily distinguishable, though small, tail, and even a rudimentary spur on the legs of the cock. The bright chestnut head will distinguish it from all our other quails, except its near relative next to be mentioned; both hen and cock have this ginger headpiece, but the rest of the hen's plumage is a simple light brown, while the cock sports a zebra waistcoat of black and white. Young birds have the plumage brown with pale streaks, and no reddish tint on the head. The bill is black, and the legs orange.
.The native name Lowa, applied to this bird, is also given to button-quails, and evidently means some bird which is much like a quail, but not the exact thing. Other names— Juhar, used in Manbhum, and the Canarese Kari Lowga, Sonthal Auriconnai, and Telugu Girzapitta, bearing witness to the marked personality of this little fellow, which is a favourite fighting bird with natives, combating with more noise and fury than even the grey partridge.
It is confined to our Empire, and in that to the Peninsula and North Ceylon ; while even in this restricted range it is local, although a dry or moist climate does not affect it much ; nor is it particular about elevation, ranging up to 5,000 feet. But it wants its location dry underfoot, and frequents wooded and broken or sloping ground, though it will come into grass and stubble to feed, and is quite contented with scrub cover; but cover of some sort it must have. Although a ground bird, it will take to trees if pat up by dogs, like the grey partridge, and it also has the partridge habit of sociability carried to an extreme, for, though sometimes found in pairs in the breeding-season, it is usually found in coveys, even up to a score in number, which pack very closely, and forage about together like a flock of guinea-fowls in miniature.
This extreme sociability, which, as in the great snow-cocks, extends so far that young ones may be seen in company with several of their elders, makes it strange that the birds should be so pugnacious, but probably the ties of friendship only hold for the same covey, which are mostly, no doubt, near relatives. Strangers are probably barred by flocking birds as well as solitary ones; and in the case of another well-known social bird, the rat- bird or common babbler (Argya caudata), two flocks working the same hedge have been seen to meet and fight with such fury that they adjourned to the road to fight out the matter in couples. Be that as it may, this bush-quail is commonly captured by means of a decoy-bird in a cage set with nooses, like the grey partridge ; for more sporting methods of capture it is not of much use, despite a remarkably tame disposition, for when pressed the whole covey explodes, as it were, in all directions, whistling and whirring—including sometimes, as Tickell says, a close shave of the sportsman's countenance—and each member drops as suddenly' as it rose after just shaving the bushes in a very swift flight of a couple of dozen yards, rapidly reassembling to the peculiar trilling pipe of the head of the covey. "When bagged bush-quail are not much to boast of, weighing little over two ounces, and being very dry. They feed chiefly on seeds of grass and millet, and are pretty certain to be found in ragi stubble; insects are also often consumed.
They breed very late in the year, beginning in September, and eggs may be taken in February; the nest is under a tuft of grass or a bush, and fairly neatly made, and the eggs pale creamy and as few as four or as many as seven in number.